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Chasing The Dream with USWNT Athlete Melissa Gonzalez

June 29, 2016, 2:14 p.m. (ET)

As part of our weekly Wednesday Chasing the Dream posts, we’ll be featuring a USWNT athlete up until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

She’s an aspiring sunscreen model, known for her unique facial applications of American flags in bright colored zinc.
She’s an underground beat boxer, always poised to drop vocal percussions at a moments notice.
She’s an Olympian with impeccable work ethic that builds the type of muscle, speed and confidence her teammates appreciate but her opponents hate.

Ladies and gentleman, meet the multi-talented, never-dull Melissa Gonzalez.

Known for rocking a shirt featuring a heavenly stack of fluffy pancakes, you can’t miss her and, in our opinion, you wouldn’t want to. Her hysterical and charming nature is magnetic. You can’t run into Gonzalez without coming away with a story or admiration. While all business on the pitch, off the turf, the USWNT athlete majors in the art of funny, quick banter.

“For me, that’s where the enjoyment comes from,” said Gonzalez. “In my family, the language of love is busting each other’s chops. What we do can be so tedious and monotonous. It’s easy to succumb to that type of energy. I like to face the challenges light heartedly.”

There’s no doubt she stood out as an athlete in her younger years. Guiding Lakeland High School to a four-year record of 82-5-2, including two state championships as well as contributing to the Hornets’ perfect 24-0 mark her senior season grabbed the attention of many. Icing on the cake was breaking the school's career marks for most goals, assists and points in a career. Her superior stick work put her on Nancy Steven’s, University of Connecticut Head Coach, radar.

While a Huskie, Gonzalez was a 2010 NFHCA All-America First Team, NFHCA Mideast Region Player of the Year, back-to-back titleholder of the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and Honda Sports Award finalist.

“I’m grateful for anyone who has given me an opportunity,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve been fortunate that a lot of people have extended themselves for me, not even necessarily about field hockey but about life. UConn, the staff and my teammates, were integral in shaping me as a person and player nurturing my never-give-up attitude.”

Giving her talents and time as an volunteer assistant coach for several programs including Yale, UMass and UConn, Gonzalez learned as much as she taught.

“I was able to be around a lot of great coaches and picked up on a lot of tricks and tips along the way,” said Gonzalez. “On the other side of it, as a player, I was able to examine what a coach might want and how I can bring that back to my game to help my team.”

She’s goal-oriented, fearlessly aggressive when it comes to challenges – pull-ups, squats, sprints, you name it, sign Gonzalez up. But from time to time, Gonzalez’s competitive mindset has been known to backfire. Like after consuming a plethora of sushi, she was unable to leave two more pieces on her plate because it’s seen as quitting, and Gonzalez is anything but a quitter. She gobbled down the sushi to the point of almost becoming sick. Overly stuffed yet satisfied, add another W to Gonzalez’s win column.

It’s the same kind of spirit that led the Mohegan Lake, N.Y. native to the senior national team in 2010. Making an instance contribution, Gonzalez proudest moment on the team thus far is anytime she’s able to wear the Team USA jersey knowing so many great individuals have worn and still wear the uniform. She not only plays for her teammates, but for her family. Through thick and thin, the Gonzalez family continues to generate the love and support for USWNT's number 5. And equally, she brings them with her wherever the team travels, not only with the last name etched into the back of her USA uniform, but also by wearing two sweatbands located just upon her right and left elbow in memory of her father.

“After he passed away, my high school soccer team gave me sweat bands with my dad’s initials on them and it stuck,” said Gonzalez. “I continue to wear them now every time I step in between those two lines as a way of honoring him.”

Her father was dedicated to seeing Gonzalez succeed, driving her 2 hours to soccer practice to Albany, N.Y, for a 2 hour practice and another 2 hours back home all while she did homework. As a constant, positive influence, his passing left Gonzalez at a crossroad.

“I could have let it break me down, which it did for a while, or I could honor him by choosing to fight, and to fight hard in everything I do,” said Gonzalez. “Whatever I come up against now, I know I can handle because nothing will ever be as difficult as losing him. I am fortunate to even have had someone like that in life. Some people don’t.”

She carries a hunger to achieve greatness, beating out who she was yesterday. She isn’t one to do anything half-heartedly and either are her teammates.

“While there is glamor and appeal to the Olympic Games, we train at the same high-energy level all day, all year, no matter the occasion,” said Gonzalez. “This isn’t a typical 9-5 job, it almost becomes an obsession to a certain degree. To give anything less on any given day is a loss of opportunity.”  

Gonzalez is methodical and deliberate. Either perfectly dishing the ball to her teammate on USA’s attack corner unit for a goal or bringing a rotisserie chicken as a Christmas present to gift gains via protein to another teammate, there’s no denying the vital role she plays on the squad. 

Check next Wednesday for another USWNT Chasing the Dream post.

**Be sure to visit Teamzila's Chasing the Dream campaign apparel and souvenir book by clicking here.** 

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Melissa Gonzalez